Of the $20 million for tourism marketing, $15 million will go to the following five tourism organizations, according to JBRC records:

  • Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce: $6.88 million;
  • Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau: $4.08 million;
  • Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce: $1.43 million;
  • Visit Greenville SC: $1.33 million;
  • Columbia Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau: $1.28 million

The Nerve last year reportedthat the five organizations in fiscal 2018 received a total of $14 million in “Destination Specific Tourism Marketing” grants from SCPRT, and collectively provided $28 million in required matches. Representatives of several of the groups said then that participating hotels in their areas assess a room fee toward the private matches for the state grants, though an investigation by The Nerve raised questions about whether the fees were as voluntary and transparent as claimed.

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In touting a $600 million settlement with the federal government over plutonium storage in the state, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson publicly described the deal as the “single largest settlement in South Carolina’s history.”

But what Wilson, the state’s chief lawyer since 2011, didn’t mention in his Aug. 31 announcement was thathe wantsto keep $10 million to $15 million out of the $600 million for his own agency, records show – though his office every year gets tens of millions of tax dollars through the normal budget process.

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Former SC Governor candidate and Greenville businessman John Warren launched a Political Action Committee (PAC) titled South Carolina's Conservative Future.

The goal of the statewide PAC organization is to focused on advancing freedom, economic opportunity, and accountability at the state level through policy advocacy, empowering grassroots leaders to support reforms and direct electoral engagement. The PAC says that they will only support conservative, courageous and capable Republicans who will protect life and liberty, advance economic opportunity and provide accountability to taxpayers.

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Another governing board of a state-created agency is under scrutiny over whether some board members are receiving state health-insurance benefits in violation of the law, The Nerve has learned.

Two members of the S.C. Ports Authority Board of Directors participate in the state health plan, authority spokeswoman Liz Crumley saidTuesday when contacted by The Nerve, though the law doesn’t allow part-time board members to be covered through the agency.

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The slow pace of fixing South Carolina’s bad roads and bridges since the state gas tax was hiked more than three years ago could be tied in part to who’s doing the work and what other projects those companies are handling, records show.

The 10 highest-paid road contractors with gas-tax-hike revenues from July 1, 2017, through August of this year each received millions more over roughly the same period from the state Department of Transportation, The Nerve found in a review of DOT and state comptroller general records.

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Last month, the agency in charge of managing the state health plan informed state-owned utility Santee Cooper that members of the utility’s governing board were offeredinsurance benefits under the plan, though they weren’t eligible, records show.

Santee Coopercommunications directorMollie Gore told The Nerve that utility officials haven’t been able to “pinpoint” the exact date when members of the 12-member board started to receive benefits, though she added in her email response, “It has been in practice for at least several decades.”

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For many South Carolinians, the size of their utility bills ultimately rests with state lawmakers.

Not only do legislators elect the seven-member S.C. Public Service Commission, which, among other things, sets utility rates for investor-owned gas and electric utilities, but they also control the nomination of PSC candidates.

Those who want to be a PSC commissioner must have the support of the six-legislator, 10-member State Regulation of Public Utilities Review Committee, or PURC for short. PSC members currently earn a base annual salary of $132,071, according to the state salary database.

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Many politicians and other government officials don’t want to publicly acknowledge the huge surpluses that state agencies accumulate year after year.

Even amid the coronavirus outbreak in South Carolina, 101 state agencies and two major state accounts collectively ended the fiscal year on June 30 with at least $4.3 billion in “other” fund surpluses, The Nerve found in a review of records provided by the S.C. Department of Administration under the state Freedom of Information Act.

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Turlte over the finishing line

Motorists in South Carolina are now paying 8 cents more per gallon since the state gas-tax-hike law took effect in July 2017 – and will face another collective 4-cent increase over the next two years.

But repairs to the state’s pothole-riddled roads still have been moving at a slow pace.

Newly released S.C. Department of Transportation records show that since July 1, 2017, through July 31 of this year, the total dollar value of completed “pavements” projects statewide was less than half of the total estimated cost of all such projects.

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The S.C. Department of Commerce started fiscal 2021 with a $103.1 million general-fund surplus – more than double its reserves from a year ago.

The S.C. House of Representatives had a $23.7 million surplus as of July 1 for its 124-member chamber – nearly $1 million more than its entire budget, records show.

Those amounts were part of $623.5 million in total general-fund surpluses among state agencies and several major state accounts at the end of fiscal 2019-20, according to a report by state Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom.

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As University of South Carolina and Clemson University students return to in-person or online classes amid the coronavirus spread, what remains constant at the state’s two largest colleges is the growing number of well-paid employees.

As of July 7, the 48,000-student USC, which has eight campuses statewide, had 1,193 employees earning at least $100,000 annually – 54 more than a year ago and 163 more compared to the same period in 2018, The Nerve found in a review of the state salary database.

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Gov. Henry McMaster has once again granted the S.C. Department of Commerce – which isn’t a public health agency – the power to make health-related decisions in response to the coronavirus outbreak in the state.

Last week, McMaster announced that “gatherings,” defined in his executive order as a “planned or spontaneous indoor or outdoor event that involves or is reasonably expected to involve a large number people physically present,” must be limited to 250 people or 50% of the location’s legal occupancy capacity, whichever is less.

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Auto Industry

S.C. politicians routinely love to make promises about massive corporate investment and multitudes of new jobs in the Palmetto State.

But the secretly crafted written agreements offering taxpayer-backed incentives in exchange for those promised jobs and investment often don’t live up to the official hype.

Last month, The Nerve detailed how for years state commerce and revenue officials failed to adequately track new jobs that benefiting companies were required to create.

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SC Pot Holes 7 2020

As residents and tourists hit South Carolina roads this July 4th holiday weekend, they will contend with plenty of potholes and higher state gasoline taxes.

Meanwhile, newly released records show that the S.C. Department of Transportation – the agency tasked with fixing pothole-riddled, state-maintained roads, continues to sit on massive reserves – more than $563 million as of May 31 – generated by the gas-tax-hike law that took effect three years ago.

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Tourism Traveler

Spending more tax dollars on tourism advertising and incentives for manufacturers are among proposals to jump-start South Carolina’s economy, which took a severe blow with government-imposed shutdowns following the coronavirus outbreak.

The recommendation for increased tourism advertising is contained in a final report released last week by “accelerateSC,” an advisory committee created by Gov. Henry McMaster in April and made up of public- and private-sector representatives. It’s also among proposals listed in the “GrowSC Agenda,” released this week by a group of chambers of commerce and other business organizations statewide.

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Covid 19 SC

The S.C. Department of Transportation initially wanted more than $1 million worth of hand sanitizer.

The state Department of Administration requested 1,500 laptop computers and related equipment totaling nearly $468,000.

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